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Cherry Trees Bring Japan to Allegheny County's North Park

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

Walking through a grove of cherry trees, petals gently riding to the ground on a spring breeze, might sound like something out of a romance novel, but it's actually happening right now in North Park in Allegheny County.

Just like the Japanese government did in Washington D.C. decades ago, a local group has given a gift of cherry trees to Pittsburgh. 

Seven years ago, a group comprised mostly of Japanese Americans decided it would like to plant 250 cherry trees in a city park. The Pittsburgh Parks Department said it did not have any room, but Allegheny County gave the Pittsburgh Sakura Project a plot of land near the boathouse in North Park to do its work. 

So far 157 ornamental cherry trees have been planted along with nearly 100 trees that are native to southwestern Pennsylvania. Many of the cherry trees are maturing and are in bloom this week.

Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
The Pittsburgh Sakura Project has planted several different types of cherry trees over the years it has been working in North Park.

“This is just gorgeous,” said Pittsburgh Sakura Project Board Member Yoko Motoyama, who took a photographer into the grove earlier this week. “You have to go there, and I wish they would grow faster.”

Motoyama said some of the trees were impacted by last summer’s dry weather and are not blooming.

“We have to go there and connect 10 or more hoses and water each tree,” said Motoyama, who is always looking for volunteers to help plant new tress and tend the ones that are already in the ground.

She said it takes about two hours to water the entire grove.

The Pittsburgh Sakura Project has launched a photo contest. Amateur photographers are encouraged to take pictures of the trees this week and next and then send them into to be judged.